Hockey

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Game Times: 6:00PM (4/10, 4/12)
TV/Radio, NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, WGN-AM 720
Bro-Hio: The Cannon

In this weird, plague afflicted, abbreviated intradivision only season, this will mark the conculsion of the truly monumental eight game series between the Hawks and Blue Jackets, and the first series that the Hawks will conclude. And as both teams apparently half assedly approach the deadline, they’re both not trying to trip over their own dicks too intentionally.

Hockey

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Game Times: 6:00PM (2/23, 2/25)
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
The Horseshoe: The Cannon

As this abbreviated intra-divisional schedule lumbers towards its halfway point, the repetitive nature its structure is now starting to take its icy grip on things, even as Chicago itself finally thaws out only slightly, with the Hawks now playing their third series of the month against the Jackets, and their first in Columbus.

Hockey

Well, hope it was all worth it.

GM Jarmo Kekkelainen wasn’t going to let his squad go quietly into that goodnight last spring, and went all in at the trade deadline, bringing aboard Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel for the Jackets playoff push. It got them a stunning, historic sweep of the historically good Lightning. And that’s it.

Is that enough? For a fanbase that had seen their team accomplish exactly dick for their entire existence, it may be. Those memories will last a bit. But not that long, and soon they’re going to crave real success, like a division title or conference championship, two things the Jackets haven’t come within a $50 cab ride of. And neither of those look to be coming any time soon, as the squad that brought a playoff victory for the first time to Ohio has been shorn of three big pieces…and Dzingel. It’s not exactly a husk that’s left…but it’s the h-u-s of that.

Let’s run it through.

2018-2019

47-31-4 98 points (5th in Metro)

3.12 GF/G (12th)  2.82 GA/G (11th)

50.0 CF% (12th)  50.3 xGF% (14th)

15.4 PP% (29th)  85.0 PK% (2nd)

Goalies: Jarmo probably should be sued by the season ticket holders for negligence for heading into the season with Joonas Korpisalo as the starter. The story they’ll try and sell is that Korpisalo is 24, and heading into his prime, so there’s always a chance for a big step forward. It’s going to have to be an awfully big step, because Joonas hasn’t shown much in his brief cameos as Sergei Bobrovsky‘s backup. He’s played 90 games, and has a career .907 SV%, which would be just about league-average now. League-average isn’t going to get it done for this Jackets squad.

The wildcard is Elvis Merzlikins, and no he doesn’t have the traditional back-to-school parade here in Chicago. But I will allow for all the Fu-Schnickens jokes you want to make. Merzlikins was great in the Swiss league the past few years, but it’s impossible to know if that means anything. They seem pretty high on him, but he’s going to have to do an awful lot of heavy lifting if this team is going anywhere. That would also mean Korpisalo snuffed it, which is almost certainly doom for the Jackets.

Defense: The one unit that wasn’t scorched by free agent departures. Columbus can still roll out Seth Jones, Zach Werenski (assuming he ever signs), Ryan Murray, and Markus Nutivaara for two-thirds of the game, which is a nice place to be. It’s not Carolina’s blue line, but it’s still one of the better ones around. And they’re just running it back, as there’s been no additions to it in the offseason. So the top four will still be supported by David Savard, Scott Harrington, Dean Kukan, and Adam Clendening. Or some combo thereof, to be more precise. There’s a chance that Vladislov Gavrikov is part of the equation as well. The Jackets can at least point to this and know what they’ll get, which is more than you can say for the rest of the team.

Forwards: Ouch. At the moment, the Jackets are maybe one line and a lot of questions and hope. Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois are still a formidable tandem, and Atkinson scored before Panarin arrived. They signed Gustav Nyquist possibly to put on that line, but Nyquist is a support-scorer these days, not a main man. Alex Wennberg and and Josh Anderson will probably anchor the second, but that’s where it starts to sound short for the Jackets. Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky are still here to belch and fart and call it leadership, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Boone Jenner are going to have to seriously build on promising seasons from last campaign for the Jackets to score enough, and that’s always a dicey bet. They might need to toss prospect Liam Foudy into the deep end right away to up the amount of skill to even acceptable.

Prediction: The Jackets are in deep. They’re clearly behind the Penguins, Caps, Canes for the automatic spots in the Metro. The Islanders may have fallen farther than they did, which helps, and the Rangers and Devils probably aren’t ready to cycle back up past them just yet. Who ever fucking knows with the Flyers? So that leaves them tangling with the other division for wildcard spots, but there just doesn’t look like there’s enough scoring up front with this lot. And Jarmo already scraped the savings vault to go for it last year.

Hope those Tampa memories keep them warm for a while. It might not be enough to keep Torts from throwing himself off the roof in January.

Everything Else

vs.

SCHEDULE

Game 1 in Boston – Tonight, 6pm

Game 2 in Boston – Saturday, 7pm

Game 3 in Columbus – Tuesday, 6pm

Game 4  in Columbus – Thursday, 6:30

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. And the Jackets aren’t even in this division! We’re not supposed to be here today! Hockey is weird and stupid but that’s kind of why we’re here. For the first time in their history, the Jackets will play games in May. Maybe just one, but it’ll happen. Can they keep the miracle run going? Let’s find out.

Goalies: Are four games enough to declare a former playoff-barfer suddenly a dynamo? That’s the question you’ll have to ask about Sergei Bobrovsky. He was very good against Tampa, after a so-so regular season, though thanks to the Jackets forecheck he didn’t have to do that much. Which probably should have been the plan all along. He never faced 35 shots in a game, and really in only Games 1 and 4 did he face what you would call anything close to an abundance of good chances. Those were the games he gave up three goals, so really this might depend more on what the Jackets make Bob do than what he does. The Bruins shouldn’t be that hard to hold to a reasonable amount of shots and chances, except for that one line. But that one line is an expert at moving the puck around quickly, which is where Bob’s athleticism kicks in. But he’ll have to toe that line of athleticism and losing his positioning. Basically, we don’t know shit here.

Amongst the Toronto wailing is that Tuukka Rask was marvelous against the Leafs, with a .928 over seven games. Rask’s playoff performance have become basically metronomic at this point, almost always in the mid-.920s if not better. He’s got a career .928 in the postseason. He may not steal a series, but he’s as sure a bet as there is left to not lose it, and the Jackets are going to have to work a hell of a lot harder here than they did against the very jumpy Vasilevskiy.

Defense: This comes down to how tinker-y and match-y up-y John Tortorella wants to get. The first round acted as a coming out party for Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, racking up nine points combined in four games. However, possession-wise, that pairing got kicked around a bit and not by the Lightning’s top line either. The natural inclination is to think that they’ll take on Bergeron’s line. Judging by what happened last round, that’s probably not the case. Strangely, it was David Savard and Scott Harrington who did the heavy lifting, and at least held their own. But if you trust those two against arguably the best line in hockey that is also playoff-proven, you go right ahead. I’ll be over here. Maybe it’s whether or not Jones and Werenski can do enough on the power play and against lesser and whether that cancels out Bergeron and Marchard against Savard and Harrington. I don’t know what a Dean Kukan is and I don’t care.

For Boston, they already know the plan here. The Jackets are going to do the same thing they did against Tampa, which is push their trap up the ice, try to get their forwards on the Bs defensemen as quickly as possible and bring da ruckus. The Lightning’s defense is pretty slow beyond Hedman, especially when Sergachev was having a nightmare. You’d think this would be a problem for Zdeno Chara and the tennis balls on the bottom of his skates, and maybe it will be. It just rarely seems to be. In theory this is why you have Moonface McAvoy and Torey Krug, as they can skate themselves out of trouble. But they also blow chunks in their own zone. Then again, they just survived a more skilled and better forward crop in the last round. Basically, we don’t know shit here.

Forwards: The Jackets forwards certainly were buzzing against Tampa, with that forecheck getting them the puck back below the circles and only requiring a pass or two for chances and goals. That’s clearly the plan here, and in transition and with things scramble-y that’s when Atkinson and Panarin and Anderson are lethal. You can’t catch back up to them and how quickly they can start moving the puck around. If the Bruins can keep things stable, the Jackets lack a little shot-creation, especially if Panarin isn’t in the mood to do it. There are grunts here who can scrum in a goal or two, but you can’t beat the Bruins if your top isn’t your top (not a sex joke).

The Bruins are one line and David Krejci. And yet that’s enough for 100+ point seasons and at least a round win. The Bs got contributions from Charlie Coyle and Joakim Nordstrom and the like, but those aren’t the things you can count on. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but it’s (Gorilla Monsoon voice) highly unlikely that Marchand and Bergeron and Pastrnak aren’t going to produce. And it’s hard to see a way that the Jackets stop them from doing that, even if they try and cut it off at the source by harassing the Boston D before they can get the puck up to them.

Prediction: This isn’t going to be easy for the Bruins, and the argument that the Jackets just dispatched a better team before we had time to fart into the couch is always lingering there. And as we’ve stressed a ton, it’s not like the Lightning didn’t have playoff pedigree. Their recent pedigree is actually better than the Bs. But I don’t trust Bob yet, and Rask is pretty much a rock. And that feels like it’ll be the biggest difference here. It’s just going to take a while.

Bruins in 6.

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

It’s ok, the Hawks will still get a solid slate of bums for a while yet. But what we’ve seen is that when they don’t get bums, and they have to play anyone serviceable in this streak, they’re just not up to it. Boston and Columbus have shown the world their true colors, and the Bruins and Jackets aren’t even really near the cream of the crop of the league (pulls out single-serving of half and half and starts complaining about Jack Tunney). The Hawks can actually do some things when the other team turns off, or put in a great 10-20 minutes, but overall, they still have some weaknesses they can’t hide against teams that have the patience, coaching, and skills to exploit them. Let’s dive in…

The Two Obs

-The biggest difference last night, at least in most of the goals, was the difference in game-breaking speed. Other than Panarin’s lucky, blind deflection off a draw, every other goal for the Jackets was off a rush. Either they beat the Hawks on a change, or they capitalized on a turnover, or they got to the outside. When there is an opening, the Jackets have, at minimum, Atkinson, Panarin, Dubois, Anderson, Wennberg who can get away from you. Or at least the Hawks can’t catch. Who do the Hawks have with game-breaking speed? …still here….yeah, exactly. And that’s especially true on defense, where the Hawks don’t even have one d-man who you’d even describe as fast. At least now that Duncan Keith is either thinking about metal songs he’d like to listen to or flailing desperately at cleaning up Seabrook’s messes. There isn’t even one on the roster. Until the Hawks fix this, they’re going to be justifiably in a position they’d rather not be in (ok, I swear that’s all of them).

-This game will do nothing to stop the flow of Panarin-longing, which isn’t annoying at all. It’s not that Panarin wouldn’t help, because obviously he would. But he wouldn’t help enough, and certainly not for the price he’s going to command. I’m betting the minimum is $9 million a year, and could well go higher than that. You may scoff at that, but he’ll be coming off at least back-to-back 80+ point seasons, which not even Tavares could boast last summer.

Panarin doesn’t play defense. That’s where the Hawks focus needs to be. Sign Karlsson, Offer-sheet Trouba. Trade for Dougie. Pry Hampus out of the sinking ship in Anaheim. Any of these or of this ilk have to be priority one, two, and three. Not signing Kane’s fellow good-time boy.

Secondly, if winning were really central to Panarin’s thoughts, he’d stay right where he is. If Bobrovsky wasn’t dry-heaving his free agent year into the gaping maw of the universe, the Jackets are likely comfortably ahead in the Metro. They have a young, dynamic blue line and a good crop of young forwards. They’re not all that far away. But Panarin’s camp keeps whispering, or louder, hinting at “being on a coast.” Ok, let’s look at teams on the coasts:

Panthers – suck

Lightning – don’t need him nor can afford him

Capitals – technically on the coast but not what he’s talking about

Flyers – suck

Rangers – suck

Bruins – ok maybe? The Boston press will get a huge kick out of him the first time he doesn’t backcheck.

Kings – suck

Ducks – even worse

Sharks – can’t afford him

So yeah, you tell me what matters to Panarin. He’ll always put up numbers, but you can have him.

-The metric numbers are skewed due to the dominant second period the Hawks put up, but at least that was fun. But that didn’t stop Keith, Seabrook, Toews, and Kane to have sub-even numbers. Coach Cool Substitute Teacher simply has to split up Keith and Seabrook, because they’re getting buried every goddamn night. They can’t play together, and the more they do the more likely it is that Keith just chucks it.

You’re going to be terrible defensively anyway, so get Jokiharju up here, and then your top four is some combo of Gustafsson, Keith, Murphy, and the kid. It can’t be any uglier than this.

Toews is a different problem. Much like the team, the results are better than last year but the foundation of the process beneath it is faulty. Sometimes you lose a draw clean, and I don’t want to get on him about that back-breaking fourth goal where that happened. But Toews has been cheating on the fastball all year, not quite getting as low on his defensive duties and looking to get out of the zone quicker. And hey, that’s how the game is played now and if he had any d-man worth a shit that might work even better, as they would just get the puck out and up to him.

But going forward, the Hawks already have one center they have to spot judiciously in Strome. They can’t really have Toews be another, though age may leave them with no choice, or they’re going to have to find another center whom they can dungeon along with Kampf.

-Brandon Saad with another 70% Corsi-share. No, the Hawks didn’t win that trade. But they still have a very good player as a result of it. Both of these things can be true, and we should all just accept it.

Seems like enough for this morning.

Everything Else

It would be easy to deride Columbus’s situation, and really their overall existence. God knows I would love to. This is probably the best team the Jackets have ever had, certainly the best era, and they’re going to watch their two most important players traipse to the exit either next week at the deadline, or in the summer. It only further proves that Columbus will have a hard time competing when most players are only ever going to view it as a launch-point. First Rick Nash, now Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky have concluded that Ohio is not a place where they can accomplish what they want, and nor is it an interesting enough place to be to keep one’s mind from wandering to places with something other than buildings that house an insurance company and drunk OSU students/football coaches.

And yet, what if it just isn’t going to be that bad for the Jackets?

Let’s play it out and say that the Jackets decide that yeah, we’ll lose them for nothing, but with Panarin and maybe a resurgent Bob in the playoffs. There’s no reason they can’t come out of a much of a Metro Division. There’s no juggernaut there. They had the eventual champion Caps on the ropes last year, until Bobrovsky turned into Eeyore in net and Panarin basically disappeared. Also the switch of Grubauer to Holtby made a huge difference to the Caps. But the Penguins can’t seem to get right and Evgeni Malkin is having the most stupefying season of his career. The Caps can beat the Sharks in San Jose one night and give up a touchdown the next. The Islanders have two goalies playing out of their minds. They’re also the Islanders.

Even a conference final appearance and a swift kick to the head by the Lightning would be way farther than the Jackets have ever been, and a run and the interest it would spark in the city would lock fans in even for the “Great Russian Spies Departure.” So let’s look at what’s left.

The Jackets would still sport Cam Atkinson, who was a 35-goal scorer before Panarin showed up and everyone in the NHL was a 35-goal scorer, and Pierre-Luc Dubois up front. Boone Jenner, Alex Wennberg, and Josh Anderson probably make for a pretty good third-line in a 3+1 model. At the back, you still have Seth Jones (down-ballot Norris candidate), Zach Werenski, Ryan Murray, and Markus Nutivaara. That’s the envy of a lot of teams, especially in the East. The Penguins and Caps are certainly on the backside of their windows, and who knows if the Islanders can goof this again. You’re ahead of the Rangers, Devils, and Flyers, who can’t unfuck themselves. And maybe one day the Hurricanes figure it all out, but we’ve been saying that for three or four years.

You also suddenly have $35M in cap space, or thereabouts. Sure, Werenski is going to get a big raise in the summer. Murray and Dubois follow the summer after that. But maybe you can finally jettison Brandon Dubinsky and his fake-tough guy act and also perhaps lose David Savard too. That keeps you about even.

You can buy a goalie and a winger and/or center. You still have a top line with Atkinson and Dubois and just about any doofus. You’ve got depth. You’ve got a blue line. It doesn’t have to be that bad.

And maybe you’re adding whatever you salvage for Panarin in the next week. Bob’s trickier, as his so-so season and very spotty playoff record would make a lot of teams nervous about going for this year. Maybe you sacrifice your chances this year while adding to next year’s. And then you get to spend the next few seasons playing that card, ever so annoyingly, about how you’re now a team of players who really want to be here. “Ohio Proud” or some horseshit that they love around those parts. Just a different shade of the “no one believed in us!” card. That only keeps people coming through the gates and that goddamn cannon firing.

It’s funny to think of Columbus as a hockey outpost. And it has been. It feels like this season and summer will make it so again. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

 

Game #59 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Got a twofer for ya. Alison Lukan (@AlisonL) is the Jackets beat writer for The Athletic. We also dragged up this thing called The Pale Dragon (@PaleDragonCBus) from JacketsCannon.com

Everyone is aware of the Sophie’s choice the Jackets FO faces with Panarin and Bobrovksy. What’s the feeling amongst the fanbase? Are they jaded by having what is probably the best Jackets team ever have this cloud over it? Would they just prefer to see the back of them both and have it over with? Will there be any lingering damage?

Alison: It’s two different tales, really. I don’t think ultimately, that fans want either player to leave, but there’s been far more passion towards keeping Panarin than Bobrovsky. THis is ironic considering how much Bobrovsky has done to make the team what it is, but that longer tenure means that some are keenly aware of how he’s not played his best in the playoffs, and that tempers current worry about him leaving. As for Panarin, he doesn’t speak to the media much at all, and has been able to ride an easy-going persona through all this, making it easier for fans to pull for him to stay. I think there is definitely a segment of the fan base that fears what will be once these two leave, and there are likely some who don’t truly realiize what the impact will be, but that takes us to the ultimate question you asked about lingering damage. If Kekalainen and company can navigate this situation to a deep post-season run and/or a solid return in trade, this may not linger as the biggest story in franchise history.

Dragon: It has definitely been a cloud hanging over the season. Just today one of our readers asked “how can I root for these guys when I know they’ll be gone?” This is a good team – tied for fifth most wins since the start of 2016-17 – and yet we’re poised to lose the two best players on the team, and arguably the two most talented players in franchise history. That doesn’t happen very often. 

I suspect that the fanbase will calm down after the trade deadline. Then the uncertainty will have passed. Either the Russians will be gone then, or we’ll have them as rentals and then they’ll leave. Our readers seem to be split 50/50 on whether Panarin should be traded or kept through the playoffs. The sentiment against Bob is more negative because he’s having a below league average season, and he’s had a poor attitude. He walked out on the team after getting pulled from a game last month. Bread, meanwhile, is playing as well as ever and seems to be enjoying playing with his current linemates.

Does all this drama distract from how great of a season Cam Atkinson is having again?

I was just thinking about this the other day. I don’t know that it “distracts” but i do believe Atkinson should be getting more attention for what he’s doing (and his body of work as a whole). The Panarin / Bobrovsky stuff has certainly sucked up a lot of the media spotlight – especially on the national level.

Thank you for asking about Cam. I wasn’t sure anyone else around the league recognized how good he’s been. As a fellow vertically-challenged man, he’s long been a personal favorite. He’s having a career year and could break Rick Nash’s franchise record for goals in a season (41). In contrast to the Russians, he signed a long term extension last season and has often expressed his love for the city. His wife had their first baby last year, they’ve bought a house in the suburbs, and he has started his own business here (a hockey skills training center).  He was named one of the alternate captains this year, which recognizes that he has long been one of the most popular figures in the locker room. If he plays out his contract here, he should break all of Nash’s franchise records.

We seemingly ask about Ryan Murray every time. But here he is already with a career-high in points, and the metrics are kind as well. Finally finding his place?

I am admittedly, a Murray fan, have always been so. The difference this year is that he’s healthy, quite honestly. He’s always had this level of play in him, and I think it shows in that the coaching staff has recognized that also and given him quite a few minutes alongside Seth Jones.

We’re finally seeing why Murray was the #2 overall pick in 2012. I think the biggest factor is that he’s finally healthy. It hasn’t been one nagging injury, but rather a frustrating inability to make it through the season unscathed, outside of playing all 82 in 2015-16. Combined with some defensive struggles from Zach Werenski, Murray has earned his way into the top pairing with Seth Jones. He’s still no major offensive threat like 8 and 3 are, but he makes up for it by his play in the defensive zone. His best skill is his vision, to find the right place to put an outlet pass. That’s where the assists are coming from.

So we know that come July 1, the Jackets will be without their two Russian stars. But with Dubois and Atkinson up front, a blue line that at least goes two pairs deep, and a lot of cash to spend, is there a reason the Jackets can’t quickly recover?

I answered this somewhat in the above question, but I agree. There is a talented core in this team regardless of if the two free agents leave. The team will have to replace that elite talent in at least one or possibly two bodies – as we know that’s essential to make a run – but this doesn’t have to decimate the franchise by any means.

I’m always an optimist, but I genuinely believe this can still be a good team going forward.  It’s one of the youngest roster in the league, with only three regular players aged 30 or older. Most of the core is 25 or younger. My hope is that GM Jarmo Kekalainen adds another long term piece at the deadline (Stone? Duchene? Huberdeau? DeBrusk?), whether or not he’s able to move the Russians. That will help to fill the hole this summer. I don’t expect to make a flashy free agent signing, but I would expect Jarmo to be active in the summer trade market. Teams like Toronto and Tampa are facing a cap crunch, and Columbus could take an RFA or other team-controlled player in exchange for picks and prospects. Much like how we acquired Brandon Saad from you guys when you couldn’t afford to re-sign him.

The biggest question mark on the roster going into next season would be goalie. I see Joonas Korpisalo as the default starter. For his backup, I’d expect a battle between some veteran free agent signing, and Latvian prospect Elvis Merzlikins.

For the team to compete going forward, it will depend what happens in the rest of the division. Washington and Pittsburgh may start to decline, but the Islanders look to be strong now and Carolina is on the rise.

 

 

 

Game #59 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Since the NHL was measured in A.L. years (After Lockout ’04-’05), there are only three teams that have never won a playoff series. One is the Toronto Maple Leafs, you may have heard about them. One is the Florida Panthers. You probably haven’t heard about them, but I assure you they exist. And the other is the Columbus Blue Jackets. That will continue for another year, as the Jackets actually found a way to make the Washington Capitals look mentally strong. Perhaps they will be given an award for this, or certainly a commemoration of some kind, because they are the first to do so.

And looking over the entire history of the Jackets, this very well might be the only accomplishment you ever remember. Their other claim to fame is that they were the throw-in for the league to placate the Red Wings and move them to the Eastern Conference, which they’d only been bitching about for a decade and a half (and perhaps knew it was the only way they could maintain their then-pointless playoff streak). Essentially, the Jackets are the first team to be the “Player To Be Named Later.”

And really, that’s it.

The Jackets have strung together two good regular seasons, though both have been of the “hockey weird” variety. Last year it was a power play and Bobrovsky combining to see them eclipse 100 points. This year it was Bobrovsky and eventually the power play, though more sustainable success at evens as well. And it got them 100 points. And what it got us was a feeling that 100 points for a team doesn’t really mean anything at all.

What must be so infuriating for the Jackets is that they actually did a lot of stuff right this year, and it still doesn’t matter. They figured out Brandon Dubinsky sucks and has for a very long time. He barely played 10 minutes per game towards the end. They concluded that maybe Nick Foligno wasn’t all that good either, despite his heart and grit captaincy, and was on the third line. They discovered that Jack Johnson has always sucked and punted him into the pressbox when he started bitching about a new contract (or debt-servicing). For John Tortorella to come to these conclusions, one would have to start believing in a higher power.

And it didn’t matter.

Certainly Artemi Panarin turned some heads in the first three games, with two goals (including a gorgeous OT winner) and seven points to go with seven shots. He then didn’t scratch again when things got tricky in the next three games, was a -6, and there went any offense Columbus might have thought about having. Hmm, strange that. Doesn’t sound familiar at all.

And this is probably as good as it gets for the Jackets. They’ll have to give Ryan Murray and Boone Jenner raises this summer, even though no one can identify what it is they do exactly. That will eat up whatever cap space they have, as well as keeping their powder dry for when Panarin gets $10 million a year after what is assuredly going to be a nuclear free agent season next year. Good thing they have $11 million combined tied up in Dubinsky and Foligno. The going rate for guys who growl a lot is astronomical, isn’t it?

You can feel Torts burnout coming next year as well, because that’s how this works. Lucky for the Jackets, and Tavares-less Islanders team, a stunting development from the Devils, the Hurricanes collapsing under the weight of their bellicose owner, and a clueless-how-to-rebuild Rangers team are probably going to Homer-sperm themselves out of taking the Jackets playoff spot.

Which will give Sergei Bobrovsky another chance to spit up all over himself when everyone’s paying attention. Once again, this two-time Vezina winner spent a lot of time looking like the morning after on Bourbon St when the Jackets needed him most. A .900 SV% to slightly better his .882 from last year. We should also remember this is the asshole that made Timothy Leif a household name, so why did we ever give him any shine in the first place? At least there will be some hilarious trade rumors after next time. He just has to go to Toronto, right?

So thanks, Jackets, for whatever it is  you do. Also Columbus is a strangely redneck stinkhole and deserves nothing good. Thanks for providing exactly none of it for them.

Everything Else

Sometimes it’s difficult to find beauty after 18 games of not losing in regulation.  Against a Columbus team that is still struggling to figure out how to score more goals than the opposition, the Hawks scored the minimum amount required to net two points.  If there was a silver lining in tonight’s playbook, it was that the Hawks got a performance from their goalie that we’ve been begging for for a couple years.

No, Corey Crawford didn’t stand on his head or make a plethora of highlight reel saves.  All he did was make the saves that should be expected of him.  The Blue Jackets had a couple of good chances to find twine but they didn’t and Crawford didn’t give them any breaks by giving up any soft goals.  It wasn’t a goalie win.  It was a team win.  Take it and move on.

–For a team playing its third game in four nights, the Blue Jackets played a pretty solid game.  They had a strong compete level and looked way more engaged than they have the last couple seasons.  The combination of a new young wave of high draft picks combined with a new coach and the loss of Rick Nash gives the Jackets a new dynamic.  If it keeps going this way, it’s only a matter of time until they start winning games like tonight.

The one guy who impresses me the most is Cam Atkinson.  For whatever reason, I’ve watched more Blue Jackets hockey than ever before and each game Atkinson has impressed me more and more.  That little bastard is a handful.

–Another impressive performance out of Niklas Hjalmarsson.  He had as much to do with preserving the shutout as Corey Crawford did.  Late in the first, Hjalmarsson saved a sure goal by sacrificing his body in front.  In the second, he cleared a loose puck with Crawford swimming in his crease during a scramble in front.  He has been the Hawks most consistent defensemen this year.  It’s almost humorous to recall his performances from the past couple seasons at this point; like he had some alien pod infesting his body during that time because the difference in his play is that drastic.

–As a fourth line player and top penalty killer, Michael Frolik is a lot of fun to watch.  When you forget about the fact that he’s the Hawks 6th highest paid forward and was originally thought to be a key contributor to their secondary scoring, it makes it a lot easier to stomach.

–Maybe it’s the lack of sleep but I think I like Dan Carcillo on that fourth line.  Certainly better than him on either of the top two lines.

–Did we really need a spear to the nuts to be reminded that James Wisniewski is a dirty player?  This is the same guy who sent one of his groomsmen to the 12th century with a vicious forearm to the mouth.  And if you think that Andrew Shaw is going to forgive and forget, you would be sorely mistaken.

–Michael Rozsival is a prototypical 3rd pair defensemen.  That doesn’t mean he should be excused for letting not one, but two guys slip behind him for breakaways.  Crawford bailed him out one time and the post the second time.  Both times, Rozsival was caught napping and let guys slip behind him.  Yeah, one guy came off the bench on a change but Rozsival was on the other side of the red line during a penalty kill.  That probably shouldn’t happen.